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Should I Use a Mouthwash? Dr. Greg Explains

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Bottles of Listerine Zero mouthwash

You know, as dentists, patients often ask us about a lot of different oral care products. And one question we get is: What is the best mouthwash?

Now, most dentists aren’t like really excited about mouthwash. They certainly can be helpful. There are some mouthwashes that are very helpful, depending on the situation.

But one thing to be aware of is that a mouthwash generally, most of what you take off the shelf, has a fair amount of alcohol in it. Now, alcohol has a drying effect. It can have some antibacterial effect, but it’s also drying. So, you rinse and it feels moist, but then because of the alcohol, it will actually dry out the tissues a little bit more. So, you have to be really aware of that with many of them. (Read about some other causes of dry mouth).

Mouthwash for cavities

There are other variations that may be more helpful. One of the most valuable reasons to use a mouthwash would be for fluoride content. So, if you have a cavity problem (tooth decay), you tend to have sensitive teeth, you have erosions on your teeth, gum recession, that would be a good reason to use a daily fluoride mouth rinse. So, you’re swishing, and you’re providing that extra mineral to the tooth surfaces, which they absorb, which actually hardens the teeth a little bit over time. And that can really help make them more resistant to some of those problems.

Antibacterial mouthwash

Now, there are some other antibacterial types of mouthwash. Again, many of them do contain alcohol, but not all of them do. So, you may want to look at the ingredients. And it’s not that you can’t use alcohol. It’s just something that may not be as beneficial as you think. Or maybe you have a sensitivity to alcohol or your tissues tend to burn. If you rinse with a mouth rinse, and then you get a burning sensation, it’s probably from the harshness of the alcohol that can be contained there. So, you want to be really aware of that.

Mouthwash for bad breath

Now, there are certain mouth rinses that are used for mouth odor (read some causes of bad breath). And that is really the main reason that people pick up a mouthwash at the stores. They think it will help with mouth odor. But I want you to think of it a little bit like a perfume. It’s kind of a masking effect. And so, momentarily, for a short period, it may actually provide some change in odor. But remember that alcohol and that drying effect? When the mouth dries out, and that first odor, the pleasant odor of the mouthwash dissipates, you may actually find things are worse off. Because bacteria which cause bad breath tend to flourish in a dry mouth. So, you have to be really careful.

There are certain mouth rinses that have a special substance in them that neutralizes the odor-causing compounds. It’s like a sulfur gas. Like if you went to Yellowstone and smelled that smell, well that’s really similar to what dissipates out of your mouth in a sense and causes that odor. And so, there are certain mouth rinses that have the ability to neutralize those sulfur-producing compounds. So, you can look for a mouth wash like that. There’s a brand called CloSYS, for example, that is known for that. There are others as well. But that can be a useful mouthwash as well.

Talk to your dentist

So, you know, think about why you want to use a mouthwash, and if it’s really necessary, and what the benefits will be. Make sure you choose the right product if you’re going to use one.

It’s always good to discuss that with a dentist. If there’s a reason why you’re using a mouth rinse, maybe sensitive teeth or you feel like you’re getting a lot of cavities, obviously it’s a great conversation to have with a dentist.

If you have a dentist, that’s great. If you don’t have a dentist, then at Express Dentist we can help you because we have a trusted network of dentists across the country. If you give us a call and contact us, we’ll help you get connected with somebody that can help you with questions about toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, and everything else that might be on your mind that you could use a little bit of professional guidance for. So, feel free to reach out. Take care of your teeth and they’ll take care of you!

About the author

Dr Greg Grillo
Dr. Greg Grillo

Dr. Greg Grillo DDS studied at the University of Washington where he received a bachelors degree with Honors and later attended dental school on the same campus. Following school Dr. Greg served in the United States Navy as a dental officer. During this time he received advanced training in specialty areas of dentistry while also treating families of members of the military.

As well as sharing valuable information on dentistry and oral health, Dr. Greg remains a practicing dentist to this day. He works with families in the Okanogan Valley where he lives with his wife and three children.

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